Wrestlemania 29: Review and Live Thoughts

credit: WWE.com

Wrestlemania 29 is officially in the record books. It’s time to sit back, ignore your office work and reflect back on last night’s event. Yours truly went 7 for 8 on his Wrestlemania predictions…and the one outcome I got incorrect saw Ryback standing tall with his music playing after the match was over. Even though the PPV as a whole was predictable, did the Granddaddy of them all deliver? Depends on who you ask. Despite taking zero chances and booking in the laziest, safest way possible, Wrestlemania 29 was still a pretty good show. Not great, but it definitely had it’s moments. Below are my comments on the event, and some live commentary from KOBEsh, who was in attendance last night.

(note: I arrived at my Wrestlemania watching destination just as the Miz/Barrett match was ending so I will not be reviewing that match. The Miz won. Joy.)

The Shield vs. Sheamus, Randy Orton and Big Show

TRL: Perfect choice for an opener and very well booked. The Shield used chemistry and team work to get the advance over the sloppily thrown-together team of Sheamus, Orton, and Big Show.

Crowd was way into this match, giving Mania a much needed hot start to the event. The Shield went over with an awesome ending sequence: Randy Orton reversed Seth Rollins’ springboard mid-air into an RKO (still not quite as innovative as DDP’s weekly variations with the Diamond Cutter, but nice nonetheless), which set up Orton perfectly for a spear behind the referee’s back. Meanwhile, Big Show took offense to not receiving the tag from Sheamus, which instead went to Orton and led to the subsequent loss. Show watched from the apron in a brilliant wrinkle. The man didn’t budge. He no-sold all of the ring action while he stood and brooded like a sulking teenager.

I suppose this means he turned heel after the match was over by punching Sheamus and Orton in the face? Had he been a Face for the past 2 weeks? Whatever. I’m not sure what direction to even take Show’s storyline. I guess it’s back to the drawing board and we can look forward to renewing the Big Show/Sheamus feud nobody cares about. That’s good because it frees up Randy Orton to continue his best of 1000 series with Wade Barrett.

Live take from KOBEsh: This couldn’t have gone over any better, even as short as it was. Most importantly, it showed me just how “over” The Shield is, not only as a unit, but also as individual wrestlers. The crowd cheered them just about as solidly as any of the faces they fought, including an unexpectedly fired up Randy Orton, who showed more charisma and passion in this one match than he has on a year’s worth of TV tapings combined.

Talking with The Raw Librarian today, it’s been strange how The Shield’s been booked…and perhaps that’s why it’s working.  They are three good to very good wrestlers and can all hold their own on the microphone, but more importantly, they’re a true leaderless stable, a rarity in wrestling history. Unlike the NWO with Hogan, Evolution with Triple H, the Four Horsemen with Flair or just about any other group, it doesn’t appear that Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose or Roman Reigns take a backseat to one another, or which one WWE would push hardest if they broke up tomorrow. They win matches by working together, being selfless and strangely, not cheating. For a group of “heels”, it’s odd to see them acting with honor amongst thieves, saving one another before themselves. Even their mission statement itself–“avenging injustice”–is about as noble as you can get, regardless of their distorted notion of “injustice” is. They’re built from the ground up to be the ultimate “cool” anti-hero group, with their black fatigues and nebulous notions of what’s right and wrong. I got all this last night from how passionately the crowd loved them.

Mark Henry vs. Ryback

TRL: And all of the momentum gained by the hot opener was immediately lost.  One of the better parts about watching Wrestlemania with a large group is inevitably, there will be someone who just came for the food and booze and have never watched a minute of WWE programming before. The comments that come from outsiders with a disconnect with the product are absolutely fascinating and serve as a stark reminder that yes, we actually did pay $70 to watch grown men wrestle for 3 hours in their underwear. This year my buddy’s girlfriend sat back, mouth agape, perplexed to the core with what these two behemoths were trying to accomplish in the ring. And I didn’t have an answer. This was one of the most awkward matches I have ever seen.

If this were on NXT I’d be fast-forwarding my Hulu Plus to get to when the Wyatt Family made an appearance. This match let me down the most because I did have somewhat high expectations for it. No, it was never going to be Benoit/Guerrero (Editor’s note: Too soon), but it had the chance to be something special. This match reminded me of Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg at Wrestlemania 20…and if you’ve seen that match, you know it is not a compliment. Stone Cold wasn’t around this time to save it with Stunners and Steveweisers.

Live take from KOBEsh: I’ve got to echo TRL’s comments; it wasn’t a very good match that I thought had a chance to be a solid brawl. However, Ryback’s feats of strength (Happy Festivus!) almost saved the entire thing from being one of the worst Wrestlemania matches in many a moon.

WWE Tag Team Title Match: Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston vs. Team Hell No: Kane and Daniel Bryan

TRL: Fun match, which it was supposed to be. I still feel like the only reason this match was conceived was so that Dolph Ziggler would be given something to do. Zigs being involved early in the evening tempered the crowd a bit from chanting for the man later on. Also, I am very confused with the direction creative is teasing with Daniel Bryan and Kane. They’re enemies, they’re best friends, they’re getting along, they’re feuding, they’re having each others’ backs, they’re costing each other matches, they’re going to break up, they’re looking like a cohesive and unstoppable team. I am convinced that the WWE creative team has weekly amnesia. Similar to Guy Pearce in Memento , except that every Monday they completely forget what happened on television the week before (“Vince McMahon should come back on television and give Paul Heyman a job performance review. What’s that? HHH replaced Vince McMahon as COO and Paul Heyman doesn’t technically work for the company in our current storyline? Do it anyway.”).

The biggest thing I took away from this match is how insanely over Daniel Bryan is with the crowd. He’s ready. Put him back in the singles division and push him to the moon. How much longer are you going to keep plodding out HHH, the Rock and other retreads before Vince realizes that if he wants his company to last another 5, 10, 20 years, he needs to create new stars? People like Daniel Bryan, Cody Rhodes and Antonio Cesaro are your future Wrestlemania main events. Start treating them as such.

Live take from KOBEsh: As much as Daniel Bryan seemed to be ready for bigger and better things (which, as I will agree with my colleague here, completely is), Dolph Ziggler is trending negatively. Zigs simply isn’t coming across as a main event talent overflowing in a mid-card cup–a feat that’s more than possible, if indeed you just looked across the Stadium and saw 87,000 people yelling “YES! YES! YES!” in unison.

Ziggler may cash in the Money in the Bank briefcase against Del Rio tonight, but my distinct impression thus far and especially after seeing just a tepid response to him is that the guy just isn’t ready for primetime. Yes, the crowd was calling for his music after the Del Rio/Swagger World Title match, but that could have been just a symptom of a live audience wanting to see something special.

Fandango vs. Chris Jericho

TRL: Before this match took place, I thought it was a darkhorse choice to be the sleeper match of the show. But I was wrong. Far be it for me to question the great Vincent Kennedy McMahon, but maybe having a guy who has never wrestled a match before on WWE television debut in front of 80,000 people at the biggest, most pressure packed event of the year, wasn’t the greatest idea. These two probably would have benefited from some extra time on the house show circuit. I’m not saying this match was bad. It certainly wasn’t. It was passable in my book. But these two just didn’t click together for whatever reason. It looked like they were trying to figure out how to work with one another for the entire match.

Tell me her name already.

However, I did agree with how the match structure was set up. As mentioned in our Wrestlemania 29 preview post, Fandango needed to win this match. At this point is does more for his career. And if they are serious about his character, which it appears that they are, having him go over Chris Jericho was the right decision. Y2J dominated the match, but in the end Fandango got the cheap roll up victory. Booked correctly, but the actual application was sloppy.

Live take from KOBEsh: Chris Jericho is still, and may forever be, insanely over. My girlfriend’s brother, a 34 year-old surgeon and father of two, took one look at Jericho’s jacket and said that “I want that jacket. I don’t care how much it costs. I want it.”

However, I was surprised how much heat that Fandango had with the crowd, who simply just hate this gimmick, and perhaps hated even more than their beloved Y2J was stuck in a mid-card match with a rookie. I agree with the Librarian that he had to go over, but I was disappointed in how clunky the match looked.

World Heavyweight Title Match: Jack Swagger vs. Alberto Del Rio

TRL: We can only ask “what might have been” if Swagger hadn’t been busted with a DUI. Like I said before, there was no way Swagger was leaving Mania with the title. That just sends the wrong message to the other talent. Not only would there have been zero consequences for his bust, but it would appear that he was being rewarded.

Nothing too memorable about this match in my opinion. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad, but it also didn’t drag. Both men appeared to have their own pockets of crowd support, but I’ll defer to my man KOBesh who can give us a live report from the crowd. Just my personal opinion but I think Swagger gets relegated from here. Even though Del Rio doesn’t have an obvious next contender, I would still look for Swagger to get retroactively placed in the doghouse. While discussing last night’s event with my colleague earlier today, KOBesh made the bold prediction that Ziggler takes the World Championship on RAW tonight. I’m kinda mad he is getting my hopes up.

Live take from KOBEsh: There were certainly some unabashed Swagger supporters in the crowd, but many of them turned after Zeb Colter mentioned his disgust in hearing the Yiddish language in America. Don’t piss off the New York/New Jersey Jews, Zeb. Gonna turn that crowd, right quick.

Overall, I was definitely surprised how well Del Rio was received. His face turn has gone better than I ever could have imagined, and the guy knows how to wrestle a match. Live, his finisher looks even more devastating than it does on TV, which may have led to the hot finish.

CM Punk vs. The Undertaker

What can I say about this match that hasn’t already been described in grandiose hyperbole? Obvious match of the year contender. Easily the best match of the night. Another 5 star performance to throw on the “Undertaker Wrestlemania” highlight reel.

But not to be a downer, a serious question: how much longer can the Undertaker keep doing this? I know that I give the Rock shit for coming back and wrestling three times a year while Taker shows up three weeks before Wrestlemania. But hot damn. If he is going to reward us with matches like this, don’t even have him show up on RAW beforehand. Just put together badass Metallica video packages and announce his opponent via Tout (okay, I’m clearly joking. Tout won’t be around a year from now).

Anyway, amazing match. Do what you have to in order to get your hands on it. This match justified spending $70 on the event instead of watching it on some crappy North Korean live stream (which I would never do).

Live take from KOBEsh: Match of the night, match of the year, and maybe the match of CM Punk’s career. Is that grandiose and hyperbolic enough for you, buddy?

Any main event match can pull out all the stops, have both wrestlers kick out of seemingly impossible situations, feature multiple reversals and ringside shenanigans; look no further than the two matches at the end of the card. However, like any sport or artistic endeavor, it’s all about the nuances that make it special.

What I saw last night was two professionals who have completely and totally mastered the art of the inch. Any wrestler can sell a move or reverse a hold–but watching CM Punk sell an armbar or the Undertaker glaring at his opponent after standing up from a submission…those are the little moments that truly buttress the heavy lifting of top rope elbows and Tombstone piledrivers. Punk’s development of his character has been so deep and profound that watching his expression during the Undertaker’s entrance was more entertaining than the entire Ryback/Mark Henry bout.

Taker was truly emotional at the end of the match, though I can’t say for sure whether it was the urn conjuring memories of Paul Bearer, or if he knew that at his age, he can’t say if he’ll be wrestling at Wrestlemania XXX. Either way, from the moment Living Colour struck that first chord to the moment 21-0 flashed on the video screen, Undertaker vs. CM Punk was positively perfect.

No Holds Barred Match: Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar

TRL: First things first; I liked this match a lot better than their match at Summerslam. Both guys seemed to give it 100%. Brock Lesnar is starting to look like he gives a crap about his appearance again and HHH had a very solid performance, proving that he can still go in the ring when he is motivated.

All right. Now that I got that out of the way, I HATED the ending. Let us recap Brock Lesnar’s second tenure in the WWE. He was brought back and billed as Zin’rokh; Destroyer of Worlds and then has proceeded to wrestle three times, losing two of those matches. I’m not going to tell Vince McMahon what to do with his money, but you brought in this guy to “legitimize your sport industry”, you are paying him $5 million dollars a year in base salary and you are having him lose to non-active wrestlers. Seriously, when is the next time you are going to see HHH wrestle? Survivor Series? Summerslam? Next Wrestlemania? I can guarantee we aren’t seeing him take on R-Truth on any episodes of Monday Night RAW. Yes, H needed to get his win back. He had to “avenge his previous loss, the insults on his wife and the legacy of his father-in-law” but he is no longer a wrestler. He is a suit. I think I’m right about this. Or I could just be a completely biased HHH hater. I wouldn’t doubt it’s the latter.

Live take from KOBEsh: It’s 100% the latter. See; anything you’ve ever written on MAMBINO.

My feeling was that this was a very good match, but colored with the recently completed Taker/Punk emotional rollercoaster, it’s hard to judge it without watching in isolation. Slow at points, both men worked hard and tried to tell a story–a heavyweight fight, with big moves and a lot of resting. I’ll have to go to the tape, watch this one first and figure out how to react afterwards–it’s unfortunate they had to go on after an absolute show stealer though.

WWE Title Match: John Cena vs. The Rock

So this match..um…happened. And that’s the nicest thing I can say about it. Good night everybody!

Alright, so it was an obvious mistake cutting the Rhodes Scholars match and the main event suffered because of it.. That joke tag match was obviously needed to give the crowd a break after Punk/Taker and HHH/Lesnar.

The Rock is not a wrestler. We saw a litany of rest holds applied by “The Great One” because he was exhausted in the ring. Perhaps the most telling sign was at the end of the match when a dripping wet Rock raised the hand of John Cena who barely broke a sweat.

Rest hold!

 

Three Rock Bottoms were not enough to put away John Cena. Three Rock Bottoms pinned Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 19. So Vince is telling us through transitive property…..you know forget it. We knew this match wasn’t going to have Lance Storm’s technical prowess, but I was hoping for entertainment. I might be in the minority, but I didn’t get it. I thought the main event was a dud. Some of it had to do with the exhausted crowd, but I also think it was just a bad match. And I’m not blaming John Cena here. He wasn’t given a whole lot to work with.

I like the Rock. I enjoy his movies. I respect everything he has contributed to the wrestling business from his days as Leader of the Nation of Domination, to the Corporate Champion, to the People’s Champion up until Hollywood Rock. But I’m over this crowd-pandering, random catch-phrase generating, Twitter hashtag conscious, whore version of the Great One. I’ll take John Cena smirking at the camera while simultaneously getting booed out of the building any day. But then again I need to be careful what I wish for. I can see it now: tonight on RAW, John Cena debuts the new championship belt with side spinners. God help us all.

Live take from KOBEsh: You nailed it TRL–we were simply exhausted from the two preceding matches. I’m still exhausted 24 hours later.

And I’m still shocked at how poor the match was relative to my expectations. At the very least, I believed the two would be able to remake their very good (but not excellent) match in Miami from a year ago. However, it became oddly predictable in it’s unpredictability; without the benefit of a Cena heel turn (a post for a different day), the victory of West Newbury’s own was inevitable. We were just all waiting for it to happen. Unlike Taker/Punk and HHH/Brock, there seemed to be very little rhyme or reason for the constant reversals or even the endless sequence of finishing maneuvers (save for Cena’s avoiding how he lost last year’s match on a People’s Elbow of his own). The pacing was a bit of a mess, and it felt like there was a stunning lack of thought put into the matchup. Cena won the belt, which was completely the right thing to do, but I couldn’t agree more with TRL–it was just lackluster.

Grade: B

Final Thoughts: Overall, the event was a solid but unspectacular. Aside from Ryback/Mark Henry, there wasn’t a bad match on the card. But anyone hoping for a new direction had to feel disappointed with the show. Del Rio, HHH, Undertaker and Cena winning was about as predictable as it goes.

The RAW after Wrestlemania usually features the debut of a returning superstar or a title change in order to jump-start the new wrestling year. In the past we saw Goldberg and Lesnar (2x) debut as well as previous Money in the Bank title cash-ins. Will we see Ziggler finally attempt to cash in his briefcase? Will there be a re-debut of a former superstar (RVD?) We’ll find out tonight on RAW.

 

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